Friday, February 28, 2014

Foodie Friday---Sharing a "wee bit" of Irish Culture

I can't believe that March 1st is tomorrow. Our family is filled with March birthdays...starting with my brother, my daughter, my aunt, and ending with my sister. Wedged in between them is the infamous St. Patrick's Day!
Celebrations are held everywhere featuring parades, and festivals. The wearing of green attire and shamrocks help commemorate the official Christian feast day where Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland is celebrated in many places through-out the world.

St. Patrick's Day is typically filled with lots of delicious food. Starting with breakfast. This may consist of bacon, sausages, eggs, potato Fadge (potato cakes) or the famous Boxty. (Irish griddle cakes) Add a few slices of Soda Bread, and tea, and you will be all set to start your day.

Irish Soda bread is probably the easiest bread to make. In later years I have made this to have for our breakfast on St. Paddy's Day morning. Sharing a "wee bit" of the Irish culture in celebration of St. Patrick.  

My choice of recipes for Irish Soda Bread is from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. Her recipe comes out beautifully every time.

There are so many dishes that come to mind if you would like to make a tasty family meal on St. Patrick's Day.  Start out with a delicious Beef Stew or Corned Beef & Cabbage. Add to this a traditional potato dish found in Ireland, called Colcannon, and dessert of course, a warm and decadent Bread Pudding.  Some of you may throw in a pint of Guinness or Irish Coffee along the way as well!

However you chose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day------May the Luck of the Irish be with you!


***Thank you for visiting The Lavender Bouquet today. Feel free to leave us a comment and also to pass our link along to your friends.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Good Morning Monday--"Dunk in Coffee or Red Wine"

Sometimes you just have to take that afternoon break and share it with a friend or someone you care about. When Ron and I were first married we lived next to a wonderful Italian couple that we just adored. Florence was an awesome baker. She made us things we had never tasted in our lifetime. I was thinking of Florence and her Biscotti today as I prepare for an afternoon phone call date with my niece. We are states away from one another, but somehow even a phone call recharges us until we see each other again.

Although I wish we could sit down and enjoy Florence's Biscotti and coffee together, my photographs will have to do today. Do you have a friend or family member that you could enjoy coffee & Biscotti with?

My recipe from Florence is written in her hand writing on a now tattered piece of paper. I love the state it is brings back many great memories of the early years of our marriage and the wonderful people we were surrounded by. And also just how many times this Biscotti recipe was served to my friends and family.

Florence's Biscotti

Beat with mixer--
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil (veg)
3 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla
1 tsp. pure almond
pinch of salt

Mix in--
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
(I added mini choc chips 1/3 cup to one batch, and 2 tsp. pure lemon and lemon zest
to the other batch)

You may chill if you like. I did not.

Form dough into 3 loaves and bake on a greased or parchment lined pan.

Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 min. depending on your oven.


With a serrated knife slice each loaf diagonally into 1/2 inch slices.
Place the slices, cut side down on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees
for about 5-6 min. Remove the pan and turn slices over and Bake 2-4 more minutes
and cool. The Biscotti should be crispy and dry.

Optional glaze:  Use powdered sugar and water OR l egg yolk and water on top of
each slice before baking.

 Dunk in coffee OR red wine!  :)

I hope you all enjoy Florence's Biscotti making new memories of your own.

                                                      Have a wonderful day!
***Thanks so much for being part of The Lavender Bouquet.

Friday, February 21, 2014

It's Foodie Friday....In Honor of the Sochi Olympics--Beef Stroganoff from Russia

Americans have been, and continue to be focused on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  With temperatures varying from 43-50 degrees, some joke that maybe Atlanta would have been a better choice of host city.  But to our exceptional athletes competing, no jokes, just hard work and focus on bringing home that medal.They have not let the temps dampen their enthusiasm.

Meanwhile all of us back home remain strong in our support for these exceptional athletes that represent our country..........GO USA!  At the time of my printing this blog, the medal tally was as follows: 8 Gold, 6 Silver, and 11 Bronze........and we still have 2 more days!

So what do we know about Russia.....its food and its culture? Since today is Foodie Friday I have chosen a Russian favorite dish to prepare.......Beef Stroganoff. It is simply tender beef with a mushroom and typically a sour cream sauce served over noodles. Ellie Krieger's recipe uses Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, to cut the calories. It is such an easy dish to prepare, adding a side of green beans and dinner is served Olympic style!

Displayed in the photo above is a Russian lacquer box. My husband brought this home as a souvenir from his travels to Russia years ago. It is something I have always loved to display.

Russian lacquer art was developed from the art of icon painting which came to an end with the collapse of Imperial Russia. The painters, who previously had been employed by supplying to churches and people's homes, needed a way to make a living. At this point papier-mache boxes were lacquered and hand painted. (**SOURCE Wiki)

I hope you have enjoyed a little bit of Russia with me today. What a great way to start an interesting
conversation around the family dinner table..........why not serve your family a warm and delicious Beef Stroganoff tonight and see where your conversation takes you.

        GO TEAM USA!


****Thanks so much for stopping by The Lavender Bouquet. I really appreciate the support I have received from all of you! Feel free to pass along my blog link to all of your friends. THANK YOU! OR The Lavender Bouquet on Facebook

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Burst of Springtime!

The temperature is 40 degrees today with our local weather stations predicting 55 on Friday.  That means sunshine, snow melting, and a teasing of Springtime will be in the air. At least for me!

In case you have not had time to check out the PANTONE Fashion Color Report for Spring 2014 yet, check it out below! What a beautiful collection of colors. After our dreary Winter days lately, I was ready to add a burst of color in the house. It's hard to chose just one color, they are all so beautiful. I can see myself rotating color this Spring!


I think my favorite is the Dazzling Blue. How gorgeous this will be in the form of clothing as well as household collections.

I  happened to have a few pieces of pottery in that Dazzling Blue, and I just couldn't wait to display them. The pitcher I had found at Home Goods last year, and the Polish Pottery is something I have  had for years.  I added the touch of Pussy Willows, since they are one of the first "spurts of Spring" we see in the North as our snow melts.

While we were in Napa the girls bought me the lazy susan that I used as my base for the display. I love the rustic oak wood, and the fact that its origin is an actual wine barrel from the V. Sattui Winery. Great memories.

Take a look at the Pantone chart, and scour your house for colorful Spring finds. There is nothing like a burst of "Spring" to lift our spirits.

                                                          Wishing you a colorful day!


      Thanks so much for stopping by.....see you Foodie Friday!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mardi Gras Celebration & King Cake!

March will be upon us before we know it, and my thoughts turn to the celebration of Mardi Gras. This year Mardi Gras will be celebrated on March 4th.  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, which refers to the last night before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

Although I have never personally experienced a Mardi Gras in the French Quarter, my husband has, and he assures me it is something to behold. Steeped deep in tradition from France and Spain, Mardi Gras was brought to the southern United States by colonists. The celebration includes parades, parties, and lots of rich food.

The mix that I used above can be be purchased at Old World Market. 

In New Orleans today, no party is complete without a King Cake at its head table. The cake represents the three Kings that brought gifts.  They are made of cinnamon filled dough in the shape of a hollow circle.  It is then topped with a glazed topping and sprinkled with colored sugars; Purple representing Justice, Green representing Faith, and Gold representing Power. A tiny plastic or porcelain baby can be found inside the King Cake.  Some say the person who finds the baby in their piece of cake is the person who furnishes the cake for the next party. (There are also other versions of King’s Cake stories that may be found.)
Bake the King Cake in a ring and then slice. The cake is a delicious yeast bread with a Praline filling. A simple glaze sprinkled with colored sugar completes the top. Delicious served with a great HOT cup of coffee.
Our little Baby was placed under a portion of the cake, not found until the cake was sliced.

Being a person who loves color as much as I do, I loved working with the gorgeous purple, gold and green colors of Mardi Gras, and learning a bit more about the history surrounding this celebration. Let’s see…... delicious rich food, parades, bright shiny colors, and a lot of happy people……sounds like a great time to me!

I hope you enjoyed my blog about Mardi Gras!  Please share your Mardi Gras experiences with us.

  Wishing you a bright and shiny day!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

OOPS--SO SORRY--Kale Link Correction!

Good Morning Friends,

It has come to my attention that the Kale recipe from yesterday's blog was missing some of the
important link information. I apologize and I have included the CORRECT link below:



Friday, February 14, 2014

From the Lavender Bouquet........

 Wishing you a lovely Valentine's Day!

It's Foodie Friday--Delicious and Easy Seafood in Parchment & Slow-Cooked Kale

My husband told me he really likes this Foodie Friday thing. It appears that some of the recipes I am trying out on him are surprising his taste buds a bit more than he anticipated!

We just had a delish dinner that I have to share with you. This one got rave reviews from my husband so I am anxious to see what you all think about it.

The "Baked Seafood in Parchment" was so easy to prepare and in 20 minutes we were sitting down to a great healthy dinner. The "Slow Cooked Kale with Smashed Garlic & Red Onion" was such a great side dish. It was just as easy to prepare and the flavors are outstanding! 

The Baked Seafood in Parchment recipe may be found at:

Look at how juicy this is. It also makes a great presentation dish when you want to WOW your guests. And oh let's not forget the important thing....... the taste is oh soooooooo good!!

 The Slow-Cooked Kale recipe may be found at:

Hope you enjoyed this Foodie Friday healthy get to the store to pick up your fish and scallops and bake away!

              I couldn't let the day slip away without wishing all of you a Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Life's Challenges---It's All About Attitude!

I have been trying to figure out what happened to me last usual daily trips to the gym became non-existent. I used to get out of bed, get dressed for the gym, and head out the door by
7:00 a.m. rain, snow or shine!  I loved watching GMA during my workout. It always caught me
up on world events, sprinkled in some cute anchor banter, and it had the best "Deals and Steals," which my girls were always grateful for.

I just stopped going to the gym....I had quit something that I prided myself in doing to stay healthy as I aged. A routine that I started when my oldest daughter went to college. (and believe me it has been years!) We had moved to Ann Arbor, MI and I felt a need to do something for me to fill that void. Gosh, I missed that child!

Fast forward to moving again, getting ingrained in a new community, home renovations, life, life and life. I had quit going to the gym, but why? I made a promise to myself that in "2014" I was going to get back to my normal healthy morning routine.

Well I may be a month behind, but I rolled out of bed this morning, got dressed and hit the gym. As I swiped my membership card, the moths flew from the swiper machine.....Yes, I was back! I must admit I took it a bit easier than normal as I hopped on the elliptical and got moving.

I left the gym feeling great........energized and ready for that cup of coffee. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fresh fish for dinner.  As I stood in line to pay I noticed there was a woman in front of me with what "looked like" muffins in a plastic container. While the cashier was ringing her up, she was "picking away" on the top of one of them, and I could tell she was loving every minute of it!  I had to laugh when I saw her. This was something I have been tempted to do, but never had the courage! She saw me glance at her, and in her beautiful French accent said, "these are 500 calories and I just got out of my spinning class....aren't I terrible?" I laughed and said," you look great." She said, "that's because I am French!" We both had a good chuckle and she left on her way.

Her French accent took my thoughts back to our Paris trip. One of the things Ron and I enjoyed most about Paris was being able to walk everywhere. In the mornings we would see the French with their coffee and croissant in hand, walking or riding their bikes to work. And on the way home, walking or riding, carrying the infamous baguette in hand for dinner. was right!

I have always thought that people come in to our lives for a reason, but this little French lady friend.......with her sweet and carefree demeanor, made me think about how easy it was to turn that switch on again. Heck, she just rode her buns off for an hour and said, "you know what,
I want this muffin and I am going to eat it."  It's all about balance......anything good in life is worth working for....I'm back and I'm up for the challenge.

Are you up for a challenge?

                                                               Have a wonderful day!


Monday, February 10, 2014

My Style---Our Master Bedroom

We loved the floor plan of our Houston home. With just two of us it was such an easy house to live in. Downstairs included a 2-story family room, an over-sized kitchen, laundry room, butlers pantry, formal dining room, study, powder room, and of course our Master suite. This included an attached Master bath also. Upstairs were 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a media room. It was great when the kids came home, because they had their own personal space, and when they weren't there, cleaning the downstairs was a breeze!

After living in that house for 3 years we transferred to the Northeast. Because we loved the convenience of the first floor Master, we set out our sights on finding just that once again. Our poor realtor, Ginger, had her work cut-out for her. After narrowing down our search to a specific area, much to our delight, Ginger found us just the right house with of course, our first floor Master.

Since every stitch of our house was renovated in some way, the master was no exception. But good bones and architecture prevailed. I honestly have spent most of my decorating dollars on the rooms that are most visible, family room, kitchen, etc. When it comes to the bedrooms I stayed pretty simple.

The Master is no exception. I first started using our bedroom wall color--Benjamin Moore, AC-2-Berkshire Beige, when we built our Central Valley, NY house in 2002. Since then the same color has graced the walls of our Longwood, FL home, our Houston, TX home, and now our Princeton, NJ home. I guess you could say I LOVE this color. It is one of those colors that are unique to lighting. In our Northern homes it appears a bit more green-gray, and in our Southern homes more gray. Heaven forbid if they ever discontinue it!  I know when I say gray you are thinking a cool color, but it is exactly the opposite.......the room is calming, warm and very inviting, just as we like our "Master Retreat" to be.
This is a photo of the bedroom BEFORE we purchased the house.

Here are a few photos of a portion of our Master Bedroom AFTER.

We had new windows installed, contracted the painting of the ceiling, trim and walls to be done. And found a local company to restore the wood floors back to their original state. Lastly the ceiling light was replaced with a Minka Aire, oh so quiet fan......something Ron and I can't live without anymore!  Must be a Southern thing!!

I just found this pillow in Target and LOVE it on the chair!

I am not a person that likes clutter.....but especially in the bedroom. I believe our bedroom should be our sanctuary. A place to relax and escape our hectic thing we do miss in this bedroom, is the fireplace that we had in the Houston house. Now that was amazing! Great job finding that house for us Phoebe!!

I hope you have enjoyed taking a peek into our tranquil Master Bedroom.

                                                                 Sweet Dreams!


Friday, February 7, 2014

It's Foodie Friday--Strawberries & Cream Bars & Peanut Butter Cup Pretzel Bites

One week from today is Valentine's Day! What are your plans for the day? Ron and I have celebrated a lot of Valentine days together through the years. We've always said that we don't need a "special" day to celebrate our what works for us is keeping the day pretty simple.
Since it's the last Foodie Friday before the "big" day I decided that a Valentine theme might be in order. There are so many recipes and ideas floating around..........too fussy, too crazy, and
too detailed for me. I think I finally found the right choices for a simple little "sweetness" for a very special day.

The Strawberries & Cream Bars recipe caught my eye because it uses "fresh" strawberries in the recipe. With the added factor of a cheese cakey center......I was sold. Of course not to be forgotten, the infamous candy that everyone needs just a little touch of for Valentine's Day. Who doesn't love a peanut butter cup and the saltiness of a pretzel together?  I made these delectable little dollops of yumminess......Peanut Butter Cup & Pretzel Bites for those of us that just want a little tidbit of sweetness!

I couldn't resist the verse on this Hallmark bag........and this got me thinking........what else could I use in this vignette? I am a real lover of Carnations........of any kind! Back in the day, Martha Stewart once touted her LOVE for these underrated flowers. Well folks, I feel the same way. They make such a beautiful display of color when they are all drawn together in a tight bouquet. I wrap a rubber band around them just where the stem begins under the bloom to keep them nice and tight. They are economical and gorgeous.........take a look for yourself!

Well friends, may your day be filled with whatever makes YOU happy and loved.......with a touch of  sweetness on the side!

                                                                 Happy Valentines Day!


***Thank you to Cookies and Cups for the bar recipe--
***Thank you to MADIGANMADE.COM for the Peanut Butter Cup & Pretzel Bites recipe.



Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Calm after the Storm

Good Morning My Friends--

When I woke up this morning and lifted the shade, huddled under the pine trees were our favorite deer family. At least eight of them all cozy and comfy just like us in our cozy comfy home.  We were so fortunate not to have lost power as many around the state did. The aftermath of ice and snow destruction can be seen around us. Some of the most beautiful pine trees are still laden with the heaviness of yesterday. Their normally very sturdy branches, full of icy snow, bending to the ground. But in all of this, there is such a calm beauty.......the sun is shining, the birds are out and about, the roads are clear is just another  beautiful day in the Northeast.

Wishing you a safe & wonderful Winter day!